The wild salmon that return to our rivers and streams are a treasure of the Pacific coast. They sustain our coastal communities. For generations, they have symbolized the renewal of life as they repeat their cycle of spawning, birth and migration.
But the future of our salmon and many other fish stocks is not as certain as it once seemed. In some areas, shellfish and prawn stocks have been put at risk by pulp pollution and sewage. Many salmon runs are in decline from the loss of fish habitat and water pollution.
Salmon particularly need clean cool, flowing water to survive. But too often that water is being polluted by sewage discharge, industrial dumping or agricultural runoff. Hundreds of streams, where salmon begin their lives, are damaged by poor logging and road building practices. In urban centres, development strips away the shade trees and vegetation on the stream banks, creating water temperatures that are lethal to fish.
Oil Tankers and Pipelines: A pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat could create serious threats from oil tanker traffic and potential oil spills. Maintaining the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration is vitally important to protect fish.
Sewage Pollution: For decades Greater Victoria has been discharging raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. But our work on this issue has paid off: Greater Victoria now has clear plans to build a sewage treatment system, assisted by funds from the provincial and federal governments. Meanwhile, Greater Vancouver's discharges at Iona and Lions Gate are still treated only to remove solids: chemical-laden liquid waste goes straight into the ocean. Sewage pollution is toxic to salmon and other fish.
Pesticides: More and more studies are linking pesticide usage to health related problems like rising cancer and asthma rates, and at the same time leading bio-scientists are questioning the need for the usage. An outright ban is needed to protect our food chain.
Urban Development: the provincial government brought in streamside protection legislation to help ensure that buffer zones are established that protect streams, but developers can now hire their own consultants to determine stream setbacks.
Salmon farming: despite claims that it has cleaned up, the salmon farming industry still poses a serious environmental threat, particularly by generating sea lice and diseases that could seriously harm migrating wild juvenile salmon.
Logging practices: the weakening of environmental standards in B.C. forests can only cause greater harm to fish habitat.
Most of these top issues were named as factors in the Cohen Inquiry Report into the 2009 Fraser River sockeye collapse. See full Cohen recommendations